Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Christian Russia's Birthday

According to the Washington Post, Russia has created a new holiday to celebrate the conversion of Prince Vladimir of Kiev to Christianity in 988. This is one more sign the orthodox church is tightening control over the once proudly atheist society. Muslims, who make up a seventh of the country's population, are worried, and so are secularists who think the state is using religion to enhance its authoritarian proclivities.

It must be strange to have buried religion for so many decades and suddenly feel it reviving like a long-dormant seed (or virus the marxists might say) now exposed to sun and moisture. But an aggressively Christian Russia is appealing in a way; it's supposed to be a country of pious patriarchs with long beards and robes. And Europe's blandness owes something to its general repudiation of Christianity. There is a complete disconnect there between the artifacts of its built environment and the agnosticism of its (non-Muslim) inhabitants. People wander amidst ancient Christian buildings but concern themselves only with the material and the present. It would be ironic if Russia, which suffered such momentous breaks with its past in 1917 and 1989, the most schizophrenic of all the nations of the world, would bring the idea of historical continuity back to Europe.

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